US Army Corps of Engineers
Charleston District Website

Celebrating 150 years of service to South Carolina and the Nation

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District's 150th Anniversary

Since its founding in 1871, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District has been at the forefront of modern engineering. Initially charged with construction of Forts Johnson, Moultrie and Sumter and the jetties, Charleston District has responded to changing defense requirements and played an integral role in the region and nation’s development. Throughout the 19th century, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built coastal fortifications, surveyed harbors and waterways, eliminated navigation hazards, and constructed buildings across the country. Today, the district designs and oversees engineering solutions for South Carolina, the military and the nation and has unique and varied programs, including Civil Works, Navigation, Regulatory, Emergency Management, Military and Interagency and International Services.

In March 2021, the Charleston District will celebrate its 150th anniversary and 200 years of service to the region. Throughout the year, this site will be further populated to bring you the full history of the Corps in Charleston and ways that you can engage with the District. Be on the lookout for events, activities, celebrations and much more.

By the Numbers

150 Years in the Lowcountry

English travelers make their first permanent settlement in the region on the coast. The settlement was known as Charles Towne.
Expeditionary U.S. Army Corps of Engineers teams led by military officers begin making regular visits to the Charleston region to oversee the construction of Forts Moultrie and Johnson, survey other defense sites and manage erosion projects along the Charleston Harbor.
Construction of Forts Moultrie and Johnson begin. South Carolina challenges the federal government’s seizure of the Charleston Harbor shoal, delaying official construction of Fort Sumter until 1841. Fort Sumter, a five-sided, five-foot-thick masonry walled fortress, towering as high as 50 feet above low water, is completed in 1860. During this time, expeditionary engineers also help survey and design the region’s first railroad.
Using hydraulic dredges, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers begins expanding and deepening the Charleston Harbor. Charleston Harbor later becomes one of the nation’s 17 strategic ports.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers establishes permanent roots in the Charleston area. During Reconstruction, the District expands its civil works program and helps the City of Charleston establish the harbor as a modern-day port. For more than 140 years, the District has maintained Charleston Harbor, dredging it every year since.
To funnel tidal flow and improve navigation, Col. Quincy Gillmore, Charleston District’s first district engineer, begins construction of the north and south jetties along Sullivan’s and Morris Islands. The jetties are composed of riprap stones resting on a mattress of logs and brush. Construction completes in 1895. During this time, Gillmore also clears the harbor of sunken Civil War ships, making the harbor more stable and accessible.
In response to the First and Second World War, Charleston District acquires a new defense mission and helps build new military training posts across South Carolina: Camp Sevier in Greenville, Camp Wadsworth in Spartanburg, Camp Jackson in Columbia and the Army Depot in North Charleston.
Through a system of protected coastal channels, Charleston District constructs the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway in South Carolina, providing the state with a safe channel for military and commercial vessels. The AIWW also connects states along the East Coast through a safe, navigable channel. The project is completed in 1940.
The District builds and expands eight airports, including three Army Air Corp bases and airfields in Charleston, Columbia, Anderson, Spartanburg, Sumter, Florence, Georgetown and Charlotte. Some of these airfields have evolved into modern-day public airports.
Construction of the St. Stephen Powerhouse Dam, a rediversion canal connecting Lake Moultrie to the Santee River and a hydroelectric power plant, is authorized by Congress. Today, the project reduces sedimentation in the Charleston Harbor from 10 to 2 million cubic yards, saving taxpayers millions in annual dredging costs. The plant also supplies power to more than 40,000 homes, and its fish lift passes 750,000 fish every year.
In 1986, Folly Beach is authorized as a federal shoreline protection project. The Grand Strand area is approved as a federal project in 1996. Today, Charleston District regularly re-nourishes more than 30 miles of shoreline in Myrtle and Folly Beach.
Charleston District is among the first on the scene — within 48 hours of a hurricane or natural disaster — to ensure structures and waterways are safe to reopen. The District also makes repairs to the Ben Sawyer Bridge, which had toppled into the AIWW, within just two weeks — allowing residents on Sullivan’s Island to return home.
Charleston District relocates its headquarters to a building on the Citadel campus which closely resembles the design of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers logo: a castle.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provides disaster response and recovery support to FEMA and the nation through temporary housing construction, contracting support and management assistance. In the early 2000s, this support expanded as Charleston assumes a national FEMA mission to deliver ice to areas devastated by a natural disaster. The program ends several years later, as states gradually assume the responsibility.
IIS, a program allowing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide technical assistance to non-Department of Defense federal agencies, state and local governments, and other organizations, becomes a larger part of the Charleston District program delivery. Among others, the District portfolio includes work for the Veterans Administration, Department of Energy and Department of State.
To prevent further erosion and provide structural support to Morris Island Lighthouse, a Charleston-area icon, Charleston District constructs a cofferdam. Originally constructed a mile inland along the coast of Folly Beach, the historic lighthouse is now surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean.
Charleston District reassumes responsibility of military construction projects on Fort Jackson. The program covers new construction and renovation of headquarters offices, barracks, dining facilities and much more. Fort Jackson is the Army’s major hub for Basic Training, training roughly half of the all incoming Soldiers and more than 45,000 Soldiers every year.
The Charleston Harbor Post 45 Deepening Project officially begins construction, taking the harbor’s greatest depths from 45 to 52 feet. Once complete, the project will make Charleston the deepest harbor on the East Coast. The project begins as a feasibility study in 2011 and is the nation’s first large navigation study completed under the new Civil Works SMART planning process.
Through important feasibility studies like the Charleston Peninsula Coastal Flood Risk Management Study and the regional South Atlantic Coastal Study, Charleston District investigates the risks of coastal storm events on the Charleston peninsula and communities across South Carolina and partners with organizations at all levels to develop potential long-term solutions.

Upcoming Public Events

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The District will be conducting virtual events with students from select schools for National Engineers Week and Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. These events will be targeted toward students who could become America's future engineers.

The Charleston District is hosting a virtual business opportunities open house Thursday, March 4th. The event is open to all businesses, both small and large, interested in working with the Charleston District. For more information on registration, click here-

The Charleston District is hosting their first ever 5K race on the grounds of the Cooper River Rediversion Project. The CRRP is host to the St. Stephen Dam and Powerhouse, as well as many environmental initiatives led by the Charleston District and SCDNR. Join the race and get a tour of the fish lift.

Pending COVID-19 concerns, the Charleston District plans to invite the public to tour one of the survey vessels used to monitor Charleston Harbor. This event will give the public an inside look at one of the most essential processes the District does.

Join us for the annual Government Agencies Exhibition, where federal, state and local government agencies in Charleston gather at Liberty Square in front of the South Carolina Aquarium to tell the public about the work that they do. Each year, hundreds of people learn about the missions of these organizations and how they operate. The Charleston District will be there to talk about 150 years of service to the state and what we do. More details to follow.

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